Between aggrieved whiteness and class precarity: a feminist politics of interpretation

Lise Nelson, Barbara E. Smith, Jamie Winders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

A key challenge faced by antiracist, feminist scholars engaging white working-class subjects is how to conceptualize and name class-related vulnerabilities while remaining critical of broader narratives of white victimhood/aggrieved whiteness that undergird contemporary forms of white supremacy. In this article, we draw on our respective research experiences studying white working-class communities in the US South to consider how to make conceptual and ethical space for the ways white working-class research subjects navigate—in contradictory ways—the multiple axes of power that shape their lives. Across different projects with white working-class subjects, we found narratives of loss and insecurity tied to class precarity often intertwined, explicitly or implicitly, with tropes of aggrieved whiteness—the latter functioning to legitimize and reinforce broader structures of white supremacy. Each of us struggled to analytically and ethically untangle these threads in the lives of research participants, given our impulse to compassionately explore class precarity while also challenging and critiquing white supremacy. In grappling with these and other dilemmas of interpretation, we reflect on the ethics of care and respect as a cornerstone of feminist methodology and how to engage in compassionate critique as we analyze and represent white working-class narratives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalGender, Place and Culture
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • class
  • epistemology
  • feminist methodologies
  • precarity
  • relationships
  • whiteness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Demography
  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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